In 1882 Māori from the Whanganui River area on a trading trip asked Archbishop Redwood for a priest for their area. In 1883, Father Soulas and Suzanne Aubert left Hawke's Bay to go to Hiruharama, or Jerusalem, 60 kilometres up the Whanganui River.
In 1883, Aubert assisted Father Soulas as an interpreter and Māori cultural adviser along with two young Australian Sisters of St Joseph: Sisters Aloysious and Teresa from Whanganui. The two sisters from Whanganui were to teach in the school; their superior Mother Hyacinth arrived in Hiruharama to revive the Catholic Mission.
Aubert taught the Sisters the Māori language and customs; many children and adults came to the school.
The Sisters at Hiruharama, in addition to the usual customs of religious life, taught and nursed, farmed newly cleared bush, tended an orchard, made and marketed medicines, sold fruit to tourists and raised homeless children, as a result the community grew and thrived. Much of their income came through the sales of Aubert's medicinal formulations, including many cannabis-based medicines - Aubert is the first person known to grow cannabis in New Zealand. She was named Meri by the Maori community.
The Catholic Church has now declared her to be titled Venerable Suzanne Aubert on the path to her canonisation.
In 1969 poet James K. Baxter adopted the Māori version of his name, Hemi, and moved to Jerusalem where he set up a community based on a mixture of Franciscan and Maori spirituality. In 1969 he adopted the Māori version of his name, Hemi, and moved to Jerusalem. The community was a sanctuary for nga pohara:the poor; for nga mokai:the fatherless; nga raukore: the trees who have had their leaves and branches stripped away and who had resorted to drugs in particular to numb the sense of alienation.
I enjoyed Hemi's friendship from 1968 up until his death in October 1972, 10 months before my eldest daughter was born.
In 1981 my family and I escorted his widow and her friend, who was also my daughter's great aunt Janet Frame, to Hemi's last resting place at Hiruhirama.